The London Daily Telegraph and the London Daily Mail have published findings on former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Middle East financial interests as disclosed by the official UK government committee which vets former ministers’ business interests.
The Daily Mail described Blair as waging an “extraordinary two-year battle to keep secret a lucrative deal with a multinational oil giant which has extensive interests in Iraq”, referring to the just revealed fact that Mr. Blair serves as advisor to a South Korean firm, UI Energy, since August 2008, and has made at least £20million since leaving Downing Street in June 2007.
In addition, the daily claimed, the former head of state who is now the Middle East Quartet’s envoy to Israel “went to great efforts to keep hidden a separate £1million deal advising the ruling royal family in Iraq's neighbor Kuwait”, since June 2008, reportedly with the task of producing a report on the oil state's future over the next 30 years.
None of this was known to the public, when, in a November 2009 interview, shortly after the announcement by PM Netanyahu of a ten month settlement freeze, Tony Blair said: “The Office of the Quartet Representative will continue to work hard for the recent [Palestinian] growth on the West Bank to be sustained and expanded, for the changes in [Palestinian] access and movement to be deepened; and for a different strategy on Gaza...”
Blair had convinced the committee to keep details of both his business deals from the public for almost two years, claiming they were market sensitive. The committee's chairman, former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Lang, reviewed the papers recently and ordered the information made public on Thursday.
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said: 'These revelations show that our former Prime Minister is for sale - he is driven by making as much money as possible.
Last night Tory MP Douglas Carswell said of Mr Blair's links to UI Energy Corporation: 'This doesn't just look bad, it stinks.
'It seems that the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has been in the pay of a very big foreign oil corporation and we have been kept in the dark about it.
'This is revolving door politics at its worst. It's not as if Mr Blair has even stepped back from politics, because he is still politically active in the Middle East.”
Blair, speaking to Reuters today after a meeting in Moscow of the Quartet of Middle East mediators from the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, made no reference to the committee’s disclosures.
He said, referring to the Arab-Israeli conflict: “I hope very much that in the next few days we will have a package that gives people the sense that yes, despite all the difficulties of the past few days, it is worth having proximity talks and then those leading to direct negotiations.” He added that both sides had to build confidence if the process was to be credible, singling out the Israeli announcement of the construction of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem as an example of what could thwart the start of talks that ultimately aim to create an Arab state in Israel's heartland.
"I think there is a continuing discussion about settlement construction and so on and obviously it's very important that neither party does anything that disrupts the possibility of getting the talks going," Blair said.
"The only thing that will give people confidence that meaningful negotiation can take place, is if things aren't done that disrupt this process, which is why the announcement on settlements was unhelpful."
Blair’s spokesman refused to comment on the media’s disclosure of Blair’s financial deals with Kuwait and firms with oil interests in Arab countries.